Con­trac­tor Pro­file: Mur­phy Pipe & Civil

Mur­phy Pipe and Civil is one of the win­ners to emerge from Queens­land’s CSG boom. Ron Horner takes a look at the com­pany and its in­no­va­tive pipe-lay­ing equip­ment

Earthmovers & Excavators - - Contents -

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Now that the dust has set­tled on Queens­land’s coal seam gas (CSG) boom and the big boys have packed up their toys and gone home, it’s a good time to catch up and have a look at just what was de­liv­ered in the largest in­fra­struc­ture pro­gramme to hit the state.

One of the rags-to-riches sto­ries to come out of the CSG boom is the rise of a new player in the Aus­tralian pipe­line in­dus­try – Mur­phy Pipe and Civil (MPC Group).

COM­PANY BACK­GROUND

The pre­cur­sor to MPC, Pipe and Civil, was cre­ated in cen­tral Queens­land in 2005 by three work­mates – Tom Der­mody, Jim Camp­bell and Bren­ton Euler – who had sim­i­lar ideals and con­trast­ing ex­pe­ri­ences in the in­dus­try.

At the time the three were work­ing on Queens­land’s Bur­dekin pipe­line.

In 2008 Pipe and Civil be­gin con­struc­tion on the $42 mil­lion Yea to Yarra Glen Pipe­line as part of the Su­gar­loaf Pipe­line Al­liance.

The in­no­va­tion, speed and qual­ity of the work pushed out by this small com­pany proved to be the cat­a­lyst to pro­ject it into a new league of pipe­lin­ing in Aus­tralia.

The big break it was look­ing for was pro­vided when it was awarded the con­tract to com­plete a $123 mil­lion steel pipe­line for MCC Min­ing on the Sino Iron pro­ject in the Pil­bara.

The com­pany says it was its in­vest­ment in a fleet of in­dus­try-chang­ing equip­ment – the Foeck­ersperger Spi­der­plough and Fast Fu­sion weld­ing tech­nol­ogy – that led to its first prin­ci­pal con­trac­tor role. So suc­cess­ful was this move that Pipe and Civil se­cured al­most $150 mil­lion of con­tracts in the first year.

Mur­phy Group, the UK’s largest pipe­line com­pany, just hap­pened to be in Aus­tralia at this par­tic­u­lar time and was sourc­ing pos­si­ble part­ner­ing ar­range­ments in an ef­fort to break into the Queens­land CSG pipe­line mar­ket in 2010.

It didn’t take long for the com­pany to hear about Pipe and Civil’s suc­cess­ful WA ven­ture and se­cure a meet­ing with the di­rec­tors.

In 2011 the two com­pa­nies merged to be­come Mur­phy Pipe and Civil, and a new era in Aus­tralian pipe­lin­ing started.

FEEL­ING THE HEAT

CSG fields are made up of an in­tri­cate web of mul­ti­ple high-den­sity poly­thene (HDPE) pipes which run un­der­ground from the well head.

It was ru­moured that there could be up to 15,000km of th­ese pipes re­quired to ful­fil the re­quire­ments for all the CSG fields, and Pipe and Civil felt it could cor­ner a fair share of the mar­ket.

Us­ing typ­i­cal pipe­line con­struc­tion method­ol­ogy, the HDPE pipe is strung along the pipe­line and just off cen­tre line. The pipe is then

heat-welded to­gether with spe­cialised HDPE pipe-weld­ing ma­chines, form­ing a su­per-strong moulded, welded joint.

An ex­ca­va­tor with a grab at­tach­ment lifts the strung pipe from the ground and into the frame of the weld­ing ma­chine where the end is trimmed and bev­elled au­to­mat­i­cally. It is then moved for­ward in the frame and the next length of pipe is placed us­ing the same pro­ce­dure.

When the ends are trimmed and bev­elled, a pre­heated steel plate is in­serted be­tween both the pipes as they are squeezed to­gether. This ac­tion of squeez­ing the pipes onto the heated plate causes the HDPE pipe to melt at the ends and, when the con­sis­tency of the weld is achieved, the plate is re­moved and the pipes jacked to­gether so as the hot melted ma­te­rial forms a welded joint.

This ac­tion of lift­ing, plac­ing and weld­ing of the pipe is a con­tin­u­ous process and, if mul­ti­ple weld­ing units are placed at in­ter­vals along the strung pipe, it is pos­si­ble to achieve a sig­nif­i­cant run in quite a short time­frame.

GAME-CHANGER

As men­tioned above, Pipe and Civil was well ahead of the pack when it came to in­no­va­tion. Dur­ing the WA growth spurt, it had ne­go­ti­ated the pur­chase of six newly de­signed Spi­der­plough pipelay­ers from Ger­man de­sign­ers and man­u­fac­turer Foeck­ersperger.

The Ger­man plant could only man­u­fac­ture a cou­ple of ma­chines per year, which meant that Pipe and Civil ( and later MPC) could hold off any chal­lenges from any­one hop­ing to move in and use this new method of HDPE pipe in­stal­la­tion.

The Spi­der­plough is a pur­pose-built mul­ti­func­tional unit that com­bines the three pipe­lin­ing ac­tiv­i­ties of dig­ging, lay­ing and back­fill­ing in one.

Dur­ing the pipe in­stal­la­tion, the plough is pulled by doz­ers equipped with winches and blades that act as an­chors; here one or two Foeck Crawler FWF92 winch ve­hi­cles are used de­pend­ing on the ex­ist­ing ground con­di­tions.

Once in mo­tion, the plough’s rip­per and pipein­ser­tion unit are pulled through the ground.

The pre­vi­ously strung and welded HDPE pipe is con­tin­u­ously laid as the ma­chine moves for­ward to the spec­i­fied depths of up to 2.5m.

Un­like open trench­ing sys­tems, the nar­row slot in the earth cre­ated by the plough is quickly closed and com­pacted. The move­ment of the unit is GPS guided to en­able pre­cise place­ment of the pipe and is proven to de­liver up to 10km of pipe in­ser­tion in one shift lay­ing 300mm HDPE pipe.

SUC­CESS THROUGH IN­NO­VA­TION

The merg­ing with Mur­phy’s brought in­ter­na­tional pipe­line ex­pe­ri­ence and a mas­sive cash in­jec­tion to Pipe and Civil, which al­lowed it to gain ac­cess to many lu­cra­tive pipe­line con­tracts.

Since 2011, Mur­phy has se­cured many hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars of CSG con­tracts in Queens­land, won nu­mer­ous safety and in­no­va­tion awards, in­tro­duced new tech­nol­ogy not be­fore seen in Aus­tralia, and worked with man­u­fac­tur­ers to patent safety and pro­duc­tion im­prove­ments to their equip­ment.

De­spite be­ing fined and re­ceiv­ing a four-year ban from spon­sor­ing over­seas work­ers af­ter a 457 visa scan­dal a few years ago, the com­pany is recog­nised world­wide as be­ing up there with the best on of­fer and is op­er­at­ing in sev­eral coun­tries ... the lat­est be­ing the US.

The com­pany has suc­cess­fully laid more than 3500km of HDPE pipe in the 160mm-450mm range for the CSG in­dus­try.

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1. The Ger­man-de­signed and -made Foeck­ersperger Spi­der­plough pipelayer 2. Weld­ing a HDPE pipe 3. A sword on the Foeck FSP220 plough forms and clears the lay­ing bed at spe­cific depths up to 2.5m 3

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